anatomy of a meat and cheese board

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I am not a very adventurous cheese person. While each person has a different type of cheese they like, I tend to stick with the basics: Swiss, Gouda, cheddar, mozzarella and brie. If it stinks, I generally won’t try it.

Now, cured meats on the other hand, are a favorite of mine.

My husband and I will often have a spread of meat and cheese for dinner. No other “dish” will provide you with a variety of texture as much as a meat and cheese board.

Here’s how to put a meat and cheese board together:

Cheese
Pottery Barn sold these cheese markers a few years ago; I have used them as a guideline for the types of cheese to include on a cheese board: crumbly, stinky, soft, sharp and mild.

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Sticking to this guideline helps me create a board that is diverse in texture and taste.

I will also make sure that I am serving at least one familiar, well-liked cheese like cheddar.

Bread/vehicle
Meat and cheese need a vehicle to combine the textures together. We slice French baguettes, different types of crackers and bread-sticks.

Sometimes, we will toast some of the baguettes for a thicker cracker-like consistency.

Meat
It’s a good idea to have a variety of meats.

I pick a range of meats from mild to spicy. You can also buy a cured meat variety pack at your local grocery store. Trader Joe’s sells a variety of cured meats at a reasonable price.

Similar to cheese, I will serve a meat that is familiar to everyone… like salami. You can also use high quality sandwich meat!

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Condiments
Meat and cheese boards marry opposite flavors together easily:  mild to sharp, soft to crunchy, sweet to salty and oil to vinegar.

Opposites complement each other on a cheese board.

Ideas for condiments are: olives, pickles, honey, fresh and dried fruit, jam, nuts and olive oil + balsamic vinegar.

Drink
I enjoy eating meat and cheese with wine. The wine helps to cut the richness of the meat and cheese. It also helps to round out the flavors and clear the palate.

Putting it all together
Do not place the stinky cheeses together. Separate them to prevent their individual flavors from transferring to other mild, delicate cheeses.

This also goes for strong flavored meats.

To maintain the individual flavors of the cheese, use a separate knife for each cheese.  If you run out of cheese knives, you can also use butter knives or spreaders for soft cheese.

Use a large board to separate the components.

Label the cheese, meat and condiments to keep everyone informed of what they are eating and to prevent guesswork. You don’t want to make the mistake of cutting into a slice of cheese thinking it is something you are familiar with only to find out that the cheese is not to your liking.

Happy eating!
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